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UK government unveils details of construction sector deal

Out-Law News | 09 Jul 2018 | 4:06 pm | 2 min. read

The UK government has announced the details of the construction sector deal, a partnership between the government and industry designed to transform the sector through innovation.

The deal was first announced last November when the government published a new industrial strategy, but the specifics for construction have only now been detailed.

The government said the construction sector deal would help deliver better-performing buildings which were built more quickly and cheaply, lower energy use, more and better jobs, better value for taxpayers, and help the sector export more.

"The construction industry's lacklustre productivity levels need radical improvement, if UK construction is to be match fit for Brexit, and to compete in new international markets,” said infrastructure expert Graham Robinson of Pinsent Masons, the international law firm behind Out-Law.com. "The new construction industry sector deal is to be welcomed, and its focus on digitising the construction industry, as well as off-site manufacturing, will be a shot in the arm for the sector.”

Innovation is at the heart of the deal with the government calling for the use of digital techniques at all phases of the design process and the use of offsite manufacturing technologies.

A total of £420 million will be invested through the deal with an emphasis on ‘bytes and mortar smart construction’. The money will come from both the government and the construction industry, as well as the digital, energy, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. 

Investment commitments include £170 million in the Transforming Construction: Manufacturing Better Buildings programme, which will provide funding for digital technologies such as building information modelling (BIM), smart systems technology, data analytics and energy generation and storage technologies for buildings.

The government said by involving major construction clients in the public and private sector and creating a “sustained pipeline of demand”, the commercialisation of these technologies would be accelerated.

The deal is also expected to generate 25,000 construction apprenticeships by 2020, and £34 million is being invested to scale up innovative training models. The Construction Industry Training Board will be reformed to focus more on future skills needs, and the government said the sector had committed to developing training programmes required so that workers could develop the skills to maximise innovation in the future. 

Pinsent Masons’ Robinson said this aspect of the deal was critical.

"The basic issue is that there is a lack of traditional construction industry skills, but the skills needed for the future will be radically different from those of yester year," Robinson said. "New technology skills, and the need to equip the sector with new roles created by technology is taking over as a key business driver for construction today. Therefore, the skills crisis for construction, although currently a real issue for the sector, may not be as critical, if advancement in technology can be implemented rapidly."

Robinson said Brexit could be used as an opportunity for the construction sector.

"Brexit will exacerbate the skills crisis, but some see this as a key advantage to drive forward their strategies," he said. "New skills will need to take into account the direction of travel for technology as it relates to construction and modernisation of infrastructure and buildings.”

Robinson said Pinsent Masons’ recent infratech report, produced in association with the Institution of Civil Engineers, techUK and Mergermarket, showed that wireless networks, sensor technologies, machine learning and AI would shape the future of infrastructure over the next three years.